The UAE National Pavilion at Venice: a combination of poetry and filmmaking

National Pavilion UAE 2019 artist Nujoom Alghanem. Image courtesy National Pavilion UAE - La Biennale di Venezia

National Pavilion UAE 2019 artist Nujoom Alghanem. Image courtesy National Pavilion UAE - La Biennale di Venezia

Nujoom Alghanem, an award-winning poet and prominent filmmaker will represent the UAE with a major site-specific video installation commissioned for the National Pavilion UAE at the Venice Biennale.

Curators Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath been working closely with Alghanem on the new work, which will be immersive and enveloping. “We always knew we wanted to do something with film,” says Bardaouil. “We felt it was the right language for the Pavilion. We also wanted something unexpected and for that Nujoom is undoubtedly the right person. In terms of the disciplines covered by her practice, the combination of poetry and filmmaking was just too good to miss.”

Alghanem is considered a leading voice of her generation. With eight critically acclaimed volumes of poetry to date, she is highly regarded for her contributions to new forms of contemporary Arabic poetry. As an award-winning filmmaker, she has directed a number of features and documentaries that further the discourse around gender issues and societal norms. Her films include Nearby Sky (2014), Sounds of the Sea (2015), Honey, Rain and Dust (2016), and most recently, her feature documentary Sharp Tools (2017), was a tribute to late Emirati artist Hassan Sharif.

Alghanem is only the second Emirati to have a solo presentation at Venice (Mohammed Kazem represented his country in 2013 with Directions). Fellrath says that the choice of a single artist allows for a more profound view into the nation’s artistic landscape. “If you look at the history and the trajectory of the National Pavilion so far, it is also important to build on that and to carry the conversation further. The Venice Biennale is also a platform to take risks, the National Pavilion should not just be about what the nation is producing and by focusing on one artist you can go much deeper. This is a new reading and a new approach.”

This year’s Venice Biennale will be curated under the title May You Live in Interesting Times, a theme selected by its curator Ralph Rugoff as a starting point for creative dialogues about truth, playfulness and uncertainty in art, and will take place from

The 58th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale. May 11 to November 24, 2019.